Transfixed in Transylvania -- by Charles's Carrots ; (1) TASTE OF HISTORY: Lucy, Right, Shows the Jumbo Carrots from Charles's Garden. Above: The Town of Sighisoara (2) LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE: Lucy, Far Left, Tours the Saxon Villages by Horse and Cart (3) A ROYAL WELCOME: Charles's Guesthouse in Viscri Will Be Open for Business Next Spring. Inset: Lucy Tries Her Hand at Beekeeping

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), December 16, 2007 | Go to article overview

Transfixed in Transylvania -- by Charles's Carrots ; (1) TASTE OF HISTORY: Lucy, Right, Shows the Jumbo Carrots from Charles's Garden. Above: The Town of Sighisoara (2) LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE: Lucy, Far Left, Tours the Saxon Villages by Horse and Cart (3) A ROYAL WELCOME: Charles's Guesthouse in Viscri Will Be Open for Business Next Spring. Inset: Lucy Tries Her Hand at Beekeeping


Byline: LUCY MAYHEW

Lucy Mayhew visits the Princes new eco-farm in a mesmerising corner ofRomania where the vegetables just grow...and grow

PRINCE CHARLES is probably unaware that he has provided me with perhaps thetastiest reminder of one of the most unforgettable trips of my life. I pilferedseveral bunches of his succulent, jumbo carrots from the vegetable patch of hislatest farmstead, more of which P shortly. I have just returned from a tour ofthe Saxon villages of Transylvania, a mesmerising little corner of easternEurope. The region provides a rare opportunity to experience rural equanimity,where people, land and homes haven't changed for 800 years.

Without a time machine, this is the closest you'll come to witnessing what lifemust have been like in medieval Europe. My trip was organised by Jim Turnbull,a friend of Prince Charles and co-founder of Fundatia Adept, a charitydedicated to protecting common land and local communities in the Saxonvillages. The organisation is also expanding its travel arm and from nextspring it can arrange for visitors to stay in the property owned by Charles -the farmhouse has been converted into a guesthouse.

Charles has been a regular visitor to this area since 1998 and last year, aspart of his campaign to promote sustainable tourism, he bought a tumbledownSaxon home in Viscri. The hamlet has been designated a World Heritage Site bythe United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).Viscri is one of 40 settlements built by almost a million Saxon Germans whobegan moving to the area in the 12th Century to help their Hungarian alliesdefend the region against marauding Turks.

Like many of the villages, Viscri can be difficult to find - you have tonavigate a few miles of bumpy dirt-track to reach it. But when you finallyarrive,you'll be smitten by the patchwork of painted Hansel and Gretel houseswith chestnut roofs and chunky wooden gates wide enough for hay wagons. Inevery village, houses flank an orchardlined thoroughfare, usually with a muddystream running down the centre. Horses and carts clatter past more frequentlythan the occasional Soviet-era tractor and the places hum with activity at dawnwhen herdsmen take the cattle, goats and sheep owned by every villager out topasture.

The excitement Youwalk medieval is repeated at dusk when every cow and farmyardbeast lumbers back for the night. Bartering still flourishes in these poorcommunities where life is so connected to the land that no one would think ofhaving a discussion about eating local, seasonal or organic food - it's justtaken for granted. Behind every house lurks a barn, byre and cobbled courtyardfor chickens, geese, one or two pigs, sheep and cattle. Beyond the yard thereis a vegetable plot, usually followed by an orchard leading to grazing land andthe forest further on. Perhaps it was a little peculiar to become so divertedby the vegetable plot of His Royal Highness but the size of his carrots reallystruck me. As part of my trip, Clarence House reticently granted me anexclusive sneak preview of the renovated Royal residence and it fell to a localCount, who bears a striking resemblance to the actor Ralph Fiennes, to show mearound.

COUNT Tibor Kalnoky, an impeccably mannered aristocrat brought up in exile inFrance,has spent the past two decades reclaiming his family's Transylvanianproperties confiscated by the communists. He now runs his own guesthouse 30miles east of the Saxon villages and has also been given the task of restoringCharles's brightly painted home.

As we sit beneath the grapevines sipping local fruit tea, I stop ponderingwhich bedroom the Prince is likely to spend his first night in when he returnsto the area and turn my attention to the gardeners tilling the C sizeable vegpatch. I amuse myself with the notion of roasting the Prince's carrots anddrizzling them with Transylvanian forest-honey for a small supper party that Iwill be having on my first night back in England. …

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Transfixed in Transylvania -- by Charles's Carrots ; (1) TASTE OF HISTORY: Lucy, Right, Shows the Jumbo Carrots from Charles's Garden. Above: The Town of Sighisoara (2) LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE: Lucy, Far Left, Tours the Saxon Villages by Horse and Cart (3) A ROYAL WELCOME: Charles's Guesthouse in Viscri Will Be Open for Business Next Spring. Inset: Lucy Tries Her Hand at Beekeeping
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